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Three Things to Know: Nets soap opera drama continues as team loses to Cavaliers

Brooklyn Nets v Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, OHIO - JANUARY 17: James Harden #13 celebrates with Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets after the Nets scored during the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on January 17, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cavaliers defeated the Nets 114-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Nets soap opera drama continues as team loses to Cavaliers

Will James Harden leave Brooklyn? Will Kyrie Irving get vaccinated? When will Kevin Durant return and how far will the Nets fall without him? Would Brooklyn really trade Joe Harris?

To find out the answers to these questions and more, tune in to the next episode of As Brooklyn Turns.

Or maybe The Bold and the Beautiful Nets? Empire, Brooklyn? Days of Our Lives in Brooklyn? Brooklyn Landing?

We’ve got to workshop the name, but there is definitely a soap opera surrounding the Brooklyn Nets right now. One that did not stop — in fact, was brought into sharper focus — on Martin Luther King day when the Nets clearly missed Durant while being knocked off by the Cavaliers, 114-107. The Nets had the star power, but the Cavaliers had the highlights.

Here are the highlights of the Nets soap opera on Monday:

• Irving said that nothing basketball related — including Durant being out and the team losing without him— would lead to him getting vaccinated so he can play in Nets’ home games. He returned to talking about this being a protest to the vaccine mandate and what was best for his family, and he is not coming off the shaky logic of those positions.

“I made my decision already and I’m standing on it… It’s not going to be swayed by one thing in this NBA life that is somehow brought to my attention as being more important than what’s going on in the real world. It’s just not happening for me… I’m just standing rooted in what I believe in. And though we’re dealing with this right now with Kev, I know I am protected by the organization, I’m protected by my teammates, all the doctors I talked to, I’m rooted.”

This means Brooklyn will have different starting lineups and rotations in the playoffs based on whether the game is at home or on the road. What could possibly go wrong with that?

• Rumors are circulating around the league that Harden would be open to a change of scenery after this season — which has Daryl Morey holding onto hope of a Ben Simmons for James Harden trade.

Harden has talked both about how hard it would be to leave Brooklyn and this situation with Durant, and how he has never been a free agent, never been recruited like that, and wants that experience. He could go through the free agency process this offseason, meet with teams, then decide to return to Brooklyn.

If he leaves, it is likely because he opted-in to his $46.9 million option for next season and found a trade, or worked out a sign-and-trade (the teams with cap space to sign a max player next offseason are rebuilding, like the Thunder, and not places Harden can go and compete for a ring). A sign-and-trade, as he would likely use to go to Philadelphia, would hard-cap the 76ers and force them to shed salary and critical rotation players beyond Simmons, robbing the team of depth. It’s a complicated mess, but Morey could do it to pair Harden and Embiid and hope that is enough to win the East.

The most likely outcome? Harden signs an extension to stay in Brooklyn, but anything can happen.

• The Nets need to find a way to keep their heads above water without Durant and Harris, both injured. The loss to Cleveland showed just how much KD — playing at an MVP level this season — has meant to Brooklyn. The Nets have 11 of 16 games left before the All-Star break on the road.

2) After LeBron promises Lakers will be better, they deliver with win against Jazz

I’m not about to say, “THIS is where the Lakers turn their season around” because we’ve seen this movie before: Los Angeles gets up for one big game, LeBron James looks like an MVP, enough other players execute around him, and they pick up an impressive win. Then next game (or a few later) their bad habits and fit issues return, and they fall back to around .500. One game does not change a season.

But Monday’s win over the Jazz was a good step.

The day before, LeBron promised Lakers fans the team would be better.

Monday night they were better… at least LeBron and the bench players were. LeBron finished with 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, 10-day contract player Stanley Johnson had 15 on 7-of-9 shooting, Malik Monk added 14, and Russell Westbrook was at least playing downhill.

Utah, the team that takes and makes the most 3-pointers in the league, went ice-cold down the stretch, going 0-of-9 from 3 while the game was decided. More concerning, Utah was -22 in the minutes LeBron was at center — small ball bites the Jazz again. That has been a concern in a few losses lately, and it’s what they will see come the playoffs. The Jazz have to answer that question to reach the Finals.

3) Bam Adebayo returns, Heat pick up win

Through a rash of injuries and COVID-related absences this season, the Miami Heat kept finding a way to win. It has been a tribute to their culture and player development that guys deep on the bench, such as Max Strus and Omer Yurtseven, have contributed to wins.

Now Bam Adebayo is back.

The All-Star center had missed 22 games following thumb surgery, but he returned against the Raptors and, while he looked a bit rusty, still had 14 points and nine rebounds in the game.

Jimmy Butler had a triple-double of 19/10/10, and Tyler Herro continued his Sixth Man of the Year campaign with 23 off the bench.

With Brooklyn and Cleveland struggling, Miami has moved up to second in the East. Despite all the hits and health issues they have. We tend to talk about a healthy Bucks or Nets team coming out of the East, but Miami may be more than just a sleeper. This team is a legit problem.

Highlight of the Night: Ja Morant with 360 layup against Bulls

We could just rename this the “Ja Morant Highlight of the Night” and do well, because every time he steps on a court something impressive happens. Against the Bulls, it was a 360 layup that left Chicago shook.

Morant and Desmond Bane each had 25 in the Grizzlies win.

Last night’s scores:

Boston 104, New Orleans 92
Charlotte 97, New York 87
Washington 117, Philadelphia 98
Cleveland 114, Brooklyn 107
LA Clippers 139, Indiana 133
Memphis 119, Chicago 106
Atlanta 121, Milwaukee 114
Portland 98, Orlando 88
Miami 104, Toronto 99
Dallas 104, Oklahoma City 102
Phoenix 121, San Antonio 107
LA Lakers 101, Utah 95